by Lisa Forkner, Camp Mom & Deer Run Alumna
With Mother’s Day upon us and Father’s Day around the corner, it’s a good time to recognize the amazing efforts that camp parents make each year in order for their campers to get to camp and have a great experience. We celebrate you, parents! At Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River we know that it takes an enormous amount of time, resources, and planning before you drive through the gates for Incoming Day.
Though it’s been a while since my kids were campers, I remember well those last few days before camp: the flurry of necessary errands, the piles of clothing to be labeled, the sometimes-anxious camper hearts looking for assurance that they will do fine at camp. As a seasoned camp parent, I would love to offer a few thoughts about how we navigated these pre-camp waters and did our best to set our children up for a great camp experience.
First, the packing list. Our camp packing list system worked wonders for us. Two-week session? Had a list for that. Four-week? List for that. LDP? Yup, list. We spent careful time thinking ahead about what the kids really needed to have with them at camp, then added a few extra things they would like to have. Those lists evolved year-to-year. When the kids were young, I packed for them; later on, they insisted on packing from the lists themselves, giving them a sense of ownership in the process and making my job a lot easier.
So, what to include, besides the obvious clothing and gear? A crazy hat for Brookwoods’ breakfast cookouts. Indestructible foam rubber shoes for those wet days and trips down to the beach. Definitely a toothbrush. An inexpensive digital camera to capture all those new experiences. Photos from home for hanging around their bunks. Maybe create “Mad-Lib” style fill-in-the-blank stationery for your younger campers to make letter-writing easier and more likely. They can then fill in words to describe their days, their cabins, their activities, etc., at camp. (Include self-addressed stamped envelopes for the littlest campers.) One of our most innovative packing ideas: a large roll of non-slip foam shelf liner to lay between the camper’s mattress and sleeping bag… no more sliding off the bunk in the middle of the night! (How great is that?) Fishing gear. Baseball glove. Toothbrush. Maybe a light blanket for rest hour. A nylon hammock for your older camper to string up on an overnight hike? And, finally, a copy of the packing list for them to use as they eventually pack to return back home. And did I say toothbrush?
While it’s great to gather your camper’s necessary supplies, it is even more important to prepare his or her heart for the camp experience. As parents, be assured that sending your child to camp—especially to a Christian camp like Brookwoods, Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost—is one of the very best things you can do for them. Do you know why?
At camp, away from home and from technology and school pressures, kids unplug and grow in creativity, confidence, self-understanding, and independence. And at our camps, through meaningful Christ-centered relationships in the midst of God’s awe-inspiring creation, they experience spiritual transformation as they live and play within our nurturing Christian community. (Again, how great is THAT?) Yes, it was hard each Incoming Day as we said goodbye to our kids and drove back out of the camp’s gates, but we always knew that leaving them in camp’s care was one of the very best things we had ever done for them.
So, as you prepare your child for camp and begin to think about that packing list, consider sending them off with these extra-special provisions:
- Tell them how camp is an exciting, amazing, beautiful place.
- Tell them about the new friends and counselors they will come to love while they are there.
- If they are anxious, remind them that they are strong and brave, and that you know they “can do it”.
- Repeat how you can’t wait to see how they grow from their time at camp, especially in their understanding of God’s love for them.
- And then ask them, again, if they remembered to pack that toothbrush!
Thanks, parents, for all you have done and will do so that your campers can come away to camp this summer. Can’t wait to see you on Incoming Day!
Lisa (Bennett) Forkner serves on the Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc. Board of Directors and, with her husband Kent, have three young adult children, all of whom attended Brookwoods and Deer Run as campers, LDP’s, and staff members. Lisa herself was a camper, CIT (LDP), and counselor, first attending Deer Run as a Whitetail in 1978. Favorite camp memories are Miss Deer Run contests, cabin nights on the waterfront, and the Chibougamau canoe trip. Her passions include spiritual formation, Christian higher education, drawing and painting, cooking, spending time with the family dog Jethro, and anything related to being at camp! firstname.lastname@example.org